Reducing Test Anxiety

Published Saturday, December 11, 2021 by Katie

Stress. Everyone faces it, not just anxious high school students. Stress is a natural, but not insurmountable, challenge faced by all. However, by using a few simple techniques, anyone can learn to effectively and efficiently combat stress in all situations.

Strategy 1: Tensing and Relaxing. This strategy is developed and explained in depth in Dr. Paul D. Nolting’s instructional text Math Study Skills Workbook, Your Guide to Reducing Test Anxiety and Improving Study Strategies. When using the tensing and relaxing method, first place feet on the floor, making sure you are pressing evenly downwards. Then, grip the sides of your chair with your hands. In the tensing stage, simultaneously press down on the floor with your feet and tug up on the bottom of your chair with your hands. Remain in this position for five seconds, then relax. The process can be repeated several times based on necessity.

Strategy 2: Stretching. Stretching is an excellent way to get the blood flowing through your body, bringing additional oxygen to your brain and making you more alert. Additionally, it loosens muscles that have tensed up due to stress, allowing you to relax. Four different stretches can easily be done from your testing seat:

  1. In the first stretch, place one arm across your body, making sure not to bend the arm at the elbow. Using the hand of your other arm, pull the first arm towards your body. You should feel a stretch in your triceps, deltoids, and upper shoulder. Repeat with the other arm.
  2. In the second stretch, extend one arm above your head, then bend your elbow so that your hand falls down to touch your upper back. Using your other hand, press down on the elbow of your first arm. This stretches your triceps and latissimus dorsi. Repeat with the other arm.
  3. In the third stretch, extend one arm in front of your body, turning your palms to face forward, as if telling someone to stop. With your other hand, pull backwards on your fingers, stretching the muscles in your forearm. Repeat with the other arm.
  4. In the fourth stretch, hang your head so that your chin touches your chest. Gently rock your head from side to side in a circular motion, loosening up the muscles in your neck.

Strategy 3: Deep Breathing. This strategy is pretty self-explanatory. First breathe inward as deeply as possible through your nose, holding your breath for five seconds. Then, breathe outward, expelling as much air as possible through your mouth, making sure to relax your shoulders as you do so.

Strategy 4: Mental Visualization. Lean back in your chair and close your eyes. While taking deep breaths, imagine you are in some relaxing location—for example, the beach. Pretend you are looking out at this imaginary scene, as if you were actually there. Bring your mind away from the test, and focus on every detail of your imaginary place. Hold this concentration for at least 30 seconds.

Strategy 5: Mental Positivity. Often, students taking an exam such as the SAT begin to doubt their ability as the test begins. Negative thoughts such as “I will never do well” or “I am not prepared for this test” actually hurt your concentration and your performance on the test itself. When you feel yourself begin to think these thoughts, immediately shout, “stop!” in your head. Then, think of a particular positive phrase over and over in your head—for example, “I can do well” or “I’ll do great!” Thinking positive thoughts is extremely important in the SAT, and on any test in general.

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